Give to the Max Day is back: here’s what you need to know

Tonight at midnight marks the beginning of GiveMN’s fifth annual marathon fundraiser for non-profits and schools.

Here’s the lowdown:

1. How does it work?

People interested in giving to a non-profit visit, where they can search for the non-profit of their choice, or browse different causes to find a non-profit or school doing work they want to support.

The site is up and available all for organizations and donors to use all year long, but on Nov. 14, “Give to the Max Day,” people are encouraged to make their annual contributions to help their favorite non-profits win prize money and “golden tickets.”  The 24-hour event also serves to raise awareness of philanthropy and create a spirit of community giving.

Last year more than 53,000 people donated $16.3 million to more than 4,300 Minnesota non-profits and schools.

2. Are all Minnesota non-profits and schools participating?

All Minnesota non-profits automatically have accounts on GiveMN, generated using state tax information. Schools, however, need to sign up to have an account on GiveMN. Approximately 800 Minnesota schools are represented on GiveMN, through the school itself, or through its Parent Teacher Association.

3. How much of my gift goes to the non-profit or school?

When you make a gift, 95.1 percent of it goes to the cause you are supporting. This past July, the transaction fee for donations increased from 2.9 percent to 4.9 percent.

GiveMN Executive Director Dana Nelson says the increase is to cover both credit card fees and the use of the website technology, provided by Razoo.

So if you give $20 to an organization, they will receive $19.02. If you give $100, they will receive $95.10.

4. Would it be better to give my money directly to my favorite non-profit, and bypass the 4.9 percent fee?

That depends.

“In all honesty if someone’s giving directly – that’s great!” says Nelson. “That’s the behavior we want to encourage. What’s exciting about Give to the Max day is there are over $200,000 in prize grants – golden tickets, hourly drawings, etc – so you could help win the jackpot for your cause.”

At the end of Give to the Max Day, two names are picked from the donors at random. One gets to give $10,000 in prize money to the non-profit of their choice, and the other gets to give $10,000 to the school of their choice.

So if you give your money directly to an organization, you will save them 4.9 percent in fees, but it will mean one less chance for them to win some significant prize money.

Nelson says GiveMN’s goal is to build new audiences for giving by making it as easy as possible to find charitable causes and make donations. If someone is already comfortable making their donations on their own, she suggests they use Give to the Max Day to encourage other friends to give.

5. I hear there are matching grants. How does that work?

As of this writing, GiveMN reports there are more than $5 million in matching grants set aside for Give to the Max Day.

Participating non-profits and schools are responsible for organizing their own matching grants, so not every donation will be matched. But GiveMN’s website allows you to search for causes where your dollars will be matched, if that’s important to you.

6. Is this just a Twin Cities thing?

Not at all. According to Nelson, the community of Red Wing in Goodhue County has taken advantage of Give to the Max Day to raise awareness of local non-profits by hosting a giving fair at the local YMCA.

Goodhue “had six times the giving as other counties across Minnesota, so there’s something to that model,” says Nelson.

Red Wing inspired GiveMN to organize similar events in communities across the state, including St. Cloud, Northfield and Bemidji.

7. How do I follow the action on Give to the Max Day?

The Mall of America will be the headquarters for Give to the Max Day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday.  You will be able to live stream events at the mall, including some very brave school principals jumping into a shark tank to encourage their students’ families to give.

“This is a great alternative to selling wrapping paper and candy bars,” says Nelson.

From 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. CoCo in Minneapolis will host a celebration featuring a “giving bar” and “giving games” along with food and drink.

The day ends with a benefit concert for People Serving People at Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis. Nelson says GiveMN will offer live-streamed updates on the fundraising every hour, ending at 12:30am, Friday morning.

You can also follow GiveMN on Facebook and Twitter.

8. Do other states do this?

Yes, they do. Razoo powers similar day long giving campaigns for Georgia, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and others.

9. How generous are we?

Among statewide fundraising campaigns, Minnesota ranks first. Last year Colorado raised $15.7 million, just behind Minnesota’s $16.3 million.

However the Dallas, Texas, metro area hosts its own giving day, and this past September it raised $25 million. That was a dramatic increase over its previous year’s total of $14.4 million.

Since GiveMN started in 2009, it has processed more than $76 million in donations to Minnesota non-profits and schools.